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BMC Nike Grand Prix inc. UK Challenge

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Many of the UK’s leading middle distance athletes will be chasing qualifying times for this summer’s major championships at the BMC Nike Grand Prix, incorporating the UK Challenge, at the Manchester Regional Athletics Arena on Saturday evening, 9 June.


The UK Women’s 3000m steeplechase record of 9:48.51 set by Lizzie Hall (Herts Phoenix) in last summer’s UKA Endurance Initiative race at the BMC Nike Watford Grand Prix will be under threat with five of the current Power of 10 rankings top six in the entry: Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield), Helen Clitheroe (Preston), Tina Brown (Coventry Godiva), Jo Ankier (Shaftesbury Barnet) and Ruth Senior (City of Norwich), who will be determined to beat the European Under 23 Championships qualifying time of 9:55.00.


UK Athletics has designated the UKA Endurance Initiative Women’s 5000m race as the trial race for the European Junior Championships to be staged in Hengelo, Netherlands, on 19-22 July. The Juniors’ qualifying time of 16:45.00 is being chased by the reigning European Junior champion Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester), fresh out of her A-level exams; Non Stanford (Swansea Harriers) who is one of the young athletes on Dame Kelly Holmes ‘On Camp with Kelly’ mentoring programme, supported by Norwich Union; Under 17 Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham and District), the UK School Games 3000m champion; and Danielle Sale (Orion), who already has an Inter-Counties silver medal from the distance. The European Under 23s qualifying time of 16:20 will be pursued by a posse including Susie Hignett (Bournemouth), while Seniors including GB internationals Louise Damen (Winchester), Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield), Gemma Phillips-Miles (Kendal) and Katrina Wootton (Bedford and County). And there will also be a well populated B race.


Similarly, so many entries have been received for the UKA Endurance Initiative Men’s 5000m that there will be two races. The qualifying time for this summer’s World Championships is a daunting 13:21.50 but six members of the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team at this year’s World Cross Country Championships in Kenya – Alan Buckley (Gateshead), Phil Nicholls (Tipton / Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers), Mike Skinner (Blackheath and Bromley), Steve Vernon (Stockport), Jason Ward (Altrincham) and Phil Wicks (Belgrave) – line-up in a field that also includes UK Inter-Counties and England National cross country champion Frank Tickner (Wells City Harriers), 1500m international James Thie (Cardiff), Antony Ford (Blackpool and Fylde) and Moumin Geele (Newham and Essex Beagles).


The B 5000m will contain many athletes seeking to beat the qualifying time of 14:10.00 for the European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen, including Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham and District), the silver medallist over the distance at the 2005 European Junior Championships, and former junior internationals Keith Gerrard (Newham and Essex Beagles). In addition, Lee Carey (Nuneaton) in his debut over the distance is among the teenagers chasing the European Juniors qualifying standard of 14:25.00. And Dan Robinson (Stroud) gets in a little speedwork on his way to the World Championships marathon.


There is a similar mix of age groups in the men’s 3000m steeplechase with GB Junior cross country international Jon Pepper (Enfield and Haringey) chasing the European Juniors time of 8:55.00; senior Glen Comish (Sale Harriers Manchester) seeking to add more quality UK Challenge points to his total after a winning start to the season at the first British League Premiership, Tom Payn (Birchfield) chasing the European Under 23s qualifying time of 8:40.00


The BMC 800m A races will also be spiced by battles of the age groups.


The Men’s entry has established internationals James McIlroy (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) and Michael Rimmer (Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton) chasing the Osaka time of 1:45.40; Chris Gowell (Swansea Harriers / UWIC), Ben Green (Warrington / Loughborough University) and Graeme Oudney (Belgrave / Dundee University) eyeing the European Under 23s time of 1:48.50 and the World University Games guideline of 1:46.80; James Brewer (Cheltenham and County) seeking to beat the European Juniors time of 1:49.50 for the fourth time this year; and Andrew Osagie (Harrow AC / St Mary’s University Twickenham) seeking to build on his senior England debut in Bratislava in midweek … all in a field spiced-up by Kenya’s William Chirchir, who has a best of 1:43.33!


The equally exciting Women’s 800m line-up features Vicky Griffiths (Liverpool Harriers / Liverpool John Moores University) fresh from a run-away win for England in Bratislava; Loughborough University trio Charlotte Best (Crawley), Laura Finucane (Pendle) and Abby Westley (Hallamshire) chasing the European Under 23s time of 2:04.00 … all determined not to be upstaged by teenagers Emma Jackson (City of Stoke AC) and Alison Leonard (Blackburn), who both stormed under the European Juniors qualifying time of 2:06.00 at the Loughborough International.


UK Challenge 1500m and 3000m steeplechase champion Jermaine Mays (Kent AC) is in a Men’s 1500m that has an international flavour with Collis Birmingham, Lachlan Chisholm and Jeremy Roff (Australia), Adrian Blincoe (New Zealand) and Samson Kiplagat (Kenya) set for the start line.


The Women’s 1500m contestants will set out knowing that 17-year-old Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham and District) is top of the Power of 10 rankings with her winning time of 4:10.71 in Barcelona last weekend that beat the UK age 17 best set by Zola Budd in 1988. As if that is not a succulent enough target, for the likes of Jemma Simpson (Newquay and Par / St Mary’s University Twickenham), the World University Games guideline of 4:07.00 must be in the minds of the likes of Hannah England (Oxford City / Birmingham University), who is carrying her Indoor City Challenge form into the summer, while Olivia Kenny (Royal Sutton Coldfield / Birmingham University) and Stevie Stockton (Vale Royal) have the European Juniors time of 4:20.00 in their sights and versatile Under 17 Sarah Hopkinson (Gloucester) has already beaten the IAAF World Youth Championships guideline of 4:28.00.


Quality pacemakers have been lined-up for all the A races: men’s 800m, Sammy Tangui; 1500m, Wesley Cheruiyot; 5000m, Shadrack Kosgei and AN Other; 3000m steeplechase, Elijah Kibwale; women’s 800m, Faith Macharia; 1500m, Faith Macharia or Vivian Cheruiyot; 5000m, Vivian Cheruiyot; 3000m steeplechase, Nancy Wambui or AN Other. And Peter Riley will pace the Men’s 5000m B.